Last updated on 20/10/2014
Breweries and beers of Brussels
From the Sumerians who drank the fermented wheat for energy, to the Egyptians who flavored with spices and fruits, to medieval Europe and the monks who became brewing masters within the walls of their abbeys- humans have been obsessed with beer for a very long time. Even if beer no longer fulfills a nutritional need, that’s not to say the quest to perfect and innovate this beverage isn’t as strong as ever. Belgium accounts for about 180 breweries, two of which are located in Brussels.
In a general sense, beer can be separated into three categories: lagers, ales, and lambics. Their fermentation process distinguishes the three. This explains their range of flavors and appearances.
This also explains the importance of glassware. Here, the vessel is basically as important as what is in it. Every variety of beer has a specific glass for the ultimate tasting experience! The flavors and the complexities of beer escape from delicate fluted shapes, curvy tulips, long and skinny cylinders, or from mugs and wide mouthed goblets.
When you go on the search for good beer, you don’t have to look far in Brussels. Maybe you’re looking for something more unusual than the classics you would find in any supermarket or night shop? No worries, quite a number of specialty beer shops exist in the capital.
Tucked in the heart of the center on the famous pedestrian Rue des Bouchers is Délices et Caprices, the “beer tasting bar” and shop in Brussels. Pierre Zuber launched his establishment about 20 years ago. He has been helping people explore the world of beer through tastings ever since. Selectivity of artisan beers and friendly service are his trademark.
More locations include De Bier Tempel right off the Grand Place. A bit distanced from the center, you also have the Malting Pot where craft beers from all over the world can be found. And for thirsty university students, there is the Huens Bières Spéciales near ULB. Still in Ixelles near the Porte de Namur, Beer Mania keeps up to 400 beers in stock. That should be enough to keep you occupied!
Beers brewed in Brussels
What beers are typical to the Brussels region? Well to answer that, we could start with the breweries located in the city.
It may come as a surprise, but the capital of Beer Kingdom is home to a select few. An artisan elite that includes Cantillon Brasserie in Anderlecht and the newer Brasserie de la Senne in Molenbeek. Artisan is not a decorative word in this case. These brewers actually brew and bottle their beer onsite, using small scale, more traditional methods that render a strong, unique, and complex tasting beer. While Brasserie de la Senne prides itself on bitter beers, Cantillon’s signature flavor is decidedly sour. Perhaps in the near future there will be a new micro-brewery in Brussels by the Brussels Beer Project. But for that we will have to wait and see.
Thus the lambics and its derivatives (gueuze and faro), like those at Cantillon, are the most deeply connected with Brussels beer history and tradition.
However there are other beers that have an association with Brussels but are not brewed in Brussels. For example, beers from the Abbaye de la Cambre or the Abbaye de Forest.
So whether you are in Brussels for a day, a month, or a lifetime, savor this drink. Search out your favorite type. And why not favor microbreweries when you can? The Belgian beer reputation isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Cheers to that.